Ok ... apart from Malaysian cuisine, we're always on the lookout for good honest South Indian, the kind I grew up with and the fraction that M gets to sample everytime we're in Singapore. I must tell you that writing this post is a bittersweet affair for me, because this is something I would in the literal sense have written home about. But sadly as you may know from following my blog, I recently lost my mother, who would have been the most excited about our night at Kerala Foods popup restuarant over at Tomboy in Smith Street.
Tomboy is situated on that other end of Smith Street - the sportswear shopping-bus price scamming side past Johnston Street. But its a cute little place with an OTT bathroom that I adore! As we got there a little early (doors opened at 6-ish) we scoffed a glass of red at the Birmingham pub along with the rest of the winos (don't knock it, it was decent wine and at only $6 a glass - outrageous!!!) beforehand.
There was already a group of people milling outside chatting convivially when we returned, and that friendly vibe continued into the night, especially once the food (ok drink) started arriving. Its just as well, as they pack you in at a series of communal tables. Its cosy, but we're certainly not talking battery hen levels. Although you do get to learn quite a bit about your fellow diners inadvertently.
The menu and the drinks list is small and efficient, but here are some pointers. Do start with the Bhaji ($4), and Don't share. Everyone should get their own serve because the battered cauliflower and eggplant pieces are fried to perfection, and the Kasoundi that comes with it is heaven! It looks like its a big jar for just 2 people, but you will be spooning that onto your plate and eating it long after the last piece of bhaji has been consumed. And they leave it on the table for you to use as a condiment for the rest of the meal (Big Tick on that!). Needless to say, empty jars at empty tables at the end of the night! Oh but if you don't like ginger, you're probably going to hate the Kasoundi, and hell gurl, whatcha doin' readin' this anyways ... ain't nobody got time for that!
Our tipple for the night was a Pinot Gris from Cake Wines. They're a boutique winery with the cutest labels and a cool website ... oh and amazing wines! You need to check them out stat. And I think calling your label Cake is a masterstroke of marketing persuasion. Cake is one of those food words that conjures up a myriad of associations, most of them positive - like childhood, sunday teas, weddings, birthday parties, and pastel coloured frosting of course! (maybe thats just me, but I hope its you as well). Cha-ching! Our wines were served in little jam jars, like the water - cute - but lets keep these sorts of affectations in check Melbourne!
The vegetarian options on the menu were quite appealing but we were feeling carnivorous so we opted for the Chicken Badami ($14.00) - Free range chicken, with sweet spice in a creamy almond curry.
You know how you have quaffing wines? Well this is the curry equivalent. Its not a bold curry by any means, but the sweetness and the nuttiness from the almonds were well-balanced and moreish. Chicken pieces were tender and the potatoes had soaked up the curried goodness nicely. To soak up all that delicious sauce, we ordered the safron and cardamom infused basmati rice ($3 pp) which was perfectly cooked.
For our second main, we had the Dahl Gosht ($14.00) - Spiced organic lamb in a rich tomato and lentil curry. We ordered this mainly for the Dhal, as I'm not entirely a fan of tomato based curries. But again, although redolent of the South Indian triumvirate of curry leaves, mustard seeds and dried chilli, it wasn't overpoweringly spicy, so much more refined than the rawness (M's description) of the curries I grew up with and perhaps prefer. I would have liked the lamb to have had a bit more depth of flavour, but I'm glad that the tomatoeyness (?) was kept in check. No heavy handed globs of tomato paste in this one I don't think.
To round off the evening, we had a serve each of the Kashmiri Coconut Ice Cream ($5.00) - Two scoops of delicious coconut ice cream, with saffron, rosemary and cardamom. First a warning, if you don't like rosemary, then be warned that its not just a garnish, but a flavour right through the ice cream - and also please refer to my ghetto rant about ginger above as the same applies to you.
And if you like your ice cream not too sweet but just as creamy and delicious, then this is for you. It was a great way to end the meal. Oh but chatting to the bright young things next to us made us feel so old! I could see my age in their eyes. Which reminds me, if you are wanting to check this out, you'll need to get your skates on because time is running out on this venture as it is for me and M. Last orders on the 12th of October.